Wine with a view

Published 9:46 am Thursday, April 16, 2015

FORK – Call it a labor of love – for their family.

John and Claudia Ellis are building their dream farm off Cedar Grove Church Road here. It has the Peruvian Paso horses that she so loves and once raised to show. It has the signed posters from his many years working as an oboist in Hollywood, including an Academy Award.

It has an expansive view from the porch – the perfect place to relax and commune with nature with a nice glass of wine.

Yes, wine, made from the muscadine grapes that grow along a winding drive that leads up to the house and tasting room for the now public Chestnut Trail Vineyards. They produce three wines, and all will be available Saturday when they host music by the Stan Dean Ovation from 6-8 p.m.

Parents of six children, John and Claudia Ellis decided that LA wasn’t the best place to raise their family. So in 1979, they moved west, to Pennsylvania, to a 100-acree farm. That didn’t work out, financially or emotionally.

Then John saw a job opening at the N.C. School of the Arts. There, he could teach the trade that he had grown to love; and the school allowed him to travel back to LA to work on movies, television shows and commercials.

They first moved to Winston-Salem, then to Davie County, and more recently, to the farm in Fork. Daughter Christie and her husband Eric Summers also live on the property.

The vineyard, they say, is for their family.

“I made wine here for three or four years. I was learning, and pretty soon, we were filling that room,” Claudia said. “I learned that if we sell this wine, there cannot be a mistake.”

The wines are produced at Childress Vineyards, using Chestnut Trail’s grapes and recipes. They produce two red and one white semi-sweet varieties – all named after one of the Peruvian Paso horses – Legado, Estrellita and Primor.

“It’s got the sweetness, but it’s not sugary,” Christine said.

They have been selling at some festivals, and have hosted a few events.

“When I retired, I thought, ‘no work?,” John said. “No. I’d rather be working.”

There is plenty of work to keep him busy on the farm.

“Working out in the vineyard is enjoyable,” Christine said. “You’re outside and you’ve got a great view.”

They want to share that view with others.

“We want to have things for families … free music and movies,” John said. “We enjoy this place the most when we have people out here.”

“We want peple to come out here and relax on the porch,” Claudia said.

The tasting room may be small, but the porch is large. The view is even larger.

Chestnut Trail is on Cedar Grove Church Road (beside Fork Baptist Church), off US 64 East, Mocksville. It is open on Fridays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-7 p.m., other times for special events. Learn more at